Kentwood’s Sarah Wright throws insane 18-strikeout no-hitter in 4A district championship game

·4 min read

The motivation was firmly in place. Sarah Wright admitted, though, that she wasn’t sure about her physical readiness.

As it turned out, even a slightly fatigued Wright made everything right for the Kentwood Conquerors softball team on Day 2 of the District 3/4 tournament at Kent Service Fields on Saturday. What tired Wright was a stellar performance in the day’s first game, a semifinal victory over Olympia.

What she followed up with for the bidistrict title could go down as one of the most prolific single-game performances in the tournament’s history.

The sophomore pitcher struck out 18 Skyview batters, threw a no-hitter against the previously unbeaten Storm and hit two home runs to drive in five of Kentwood’s six total in a dominating 6-0, championship-game victory.

Kentwood players surround home plate to greet Sarah Wright after her home run in the bottom of the fifth inning of the District 2/3 tournament championship game against Skyview on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Kent Service Fields in Kent, Wash.
Kentwood players surround home plate to greet Sarah Wright after her home run in the bottom of the fifth inning of the District 2/3 tournament championship game against Skyview on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Kent Service Fields in Kent, Wash.

“Sarah’s the greatest competitor I’ve ever coached,” Kentwood coach Gary Graf said. “And I’ve coached a really long time.”

Wright began the championship game by striking out the first seven Storm hitters she saw. The first time Kentwood had to make a defensive play came when Layla Royle, the No. 8 hitter, grounded weakly to shortstop. Gracie Musga picked it and easily threw Royle out at first for the second out of the third inning.

It was one of only three outs made in the field of play. Only two batters reached base against Wright, both on errors.

“That was the second game of the day for me,” Wright said. “It was a little tough. My arm was a little sore.”

The fifth of those first seven strikeouts came against Wright’s Skyview counterpart, Maddie Milhorn. The two play on the same select club team, the Bullets, out of the Portland, Oregon, area.

“It was either going to be between them or Puyallup,” Wright said. “I kind of wanted Skyview to win against Puyallup so that we could play against Maddie’s team. She’s my teammate and like, usually, in practice, I always strike out against her.”

In their first encounter on Saturday, Milhorn didn’t strike Wright out. Instead, she induced the Kentwood star to ground into a double play – second to shortstop to first – to end the home half of the first inning.

After both pitchers faced the minimum nine batters through three innings (and Wright retired Skyview in order again in the fourth), Wright came to the plate again in the bottom of the fourth. As before, Lauren Rivera already was on base.

In the first, Rivera had singled ahead of Wright and was the first out of the double play. Rivera’s second of three hits in the game was a double, so she was at second with one out as Wright strode to the plate in the fourth.

This time, Wright won the battle with Milhorn. The sophomore drove a pitch high and deep into left-center and over the fencing for a two-run home run.

Those runs were all Wright and the Conquerors would have needed.

“I’m just really excited right now,” Wright said. “Once I hit that home run, I knew that we were going to win. Our team, our attitudes, they just skyrocketed at that point.”

But they also weren’t done.

Just an inning later, with one run in and two on this time, Wright hit her second homer of the game, to straightaway center, to extend the advantage to 6-0. From there, it simply was a matter of finishing things off, and much like she did to start the game, Wright struck out five of the final six for the title.

“Even though my arm is sore, I have a job to do,” Wright said. “I just keep that mindset throughout the entire game. It keeps me focused.”

There were two state tournament berths still to be decided on Saturday. Both consolation, winner-to-state games ultimately turned into routs that were completed after five innings thanks to the 10-run “mercy” rule.

Battle Ground ended its game against Graham-Kapowsin, scoring three in the bottom of the fifth to earn its trip to Spokane for the tournament that begins on Friday, 11-1 over the Eagles. Minutes later, Emerald Ridge got the final out in the top of the fifth to complete a 14-3 victory over Tahoma.

A close game for three innings, the Jaguars scored 11 times in the bottom of the fourth to break open what was a 3-3 tie heading to the bottom of that inning. The Bears came within one game of a state berth even after they began the season by losing six of their first eight games.

In the battle for third, Puyallup came back to beat Olympia, 12-7, after having lost the semifinal to Skyview – the Vikings first loss of the season – 6-2. Wright and Kentwood had beaten Olympia, 2-1, to earn its spot in the title game.

All four teams already had earned state berths with quarterfinal wins on Friday.

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